The sugar battle: Cereal companies cut sweets; soda industry sues

Sugar battle
A 32-ounce soda is filled at a Manhattan McDonalds.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

The food and beverage industry has made some major moves in recent days in the struggle over super-sweet products.

Major cereal-makers Nestle and General Mills pledged to cut sugar and salt content in children’s breakfast cereals abroad, while soda and restaurant trade groups sued to stop a New York City ban on sales of large sugary drinks.

On Monday, Nestle and General Mills said that by 2015, they will cut sugar content in 20 popular breakfast cereals by up to 30%. The two companies have a joint venture known as Cereal Partners Worldwide, which sells brands such as Honey Nut Cheerios and Nesquik outside North America.

As part of the new initiative, the cereals will feature 9 grams of sugar or less per serving and will use whole grain as their main ingredient. Sodium content will be reduced to 135 milligrams or less per serving.


Late Friday, a group of businesses and trade groups sued to invalidate the New York City Board of Health’s recent decision to ban sales of large sugary drinks at certain merchants.

The new rule aims to curb obesity by barring sales of certain sodas, sweetened teas, energy drinks and other beverages in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, street carts and more. But the lawsuit alleges that the Board of Health, which is made up of members chosen by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, didn’t have the authority to approve the regulations.

The new measure should have gone instead through the New York City Council, according to plaintiffs that include the American Beverage Assn., the National Restaurant Assn., a Korean American grocers group, a coalition of Latino chambers of commerce, a collective of theater owners and more.

The beverage ban is “arbitrary and capricious in its design and application,” according to the suit.


“This case is not about obesity in New York City or the motives of the Board of Health in adopting the rule being challenged,” according to the complaint. “This case is about the Board of Health, appointed by the Mayor, bypassing the proper legislative process for governing the City.”

The suit also claims that the soda restriction “burdens consumers and unfairly harms small businesses at a time when we can ill afford it.”


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